COVID-19: Terrain and migration data

By Chelsea Cardillo June 8, 2020 | Technology

Image caption: Torkham is a busy border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As the world struggles to contain COVID-19, porous borders likely remain detrimental to such efforts. In the second post in this series, we wrote about migrants moving from Pakistan to Iran. Because of the expansive and often unmanned borders between Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, migrants—both authorized and unauthorized—will likely contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran, many Afghan nationals there began moving back to their home country. Those who traveled through the Islam Qala border into Herat Province, Afghanistan, did not encounter proper quarantine sites, likely resulting in many traveling deeper into Afghanistan before a quarantine period had concluded. A similar situation is playing out on the border with Pakistan: Afghan authorities are attempting to limit the number of Afghans returning from Pakistan through the Torkham Gate but have been overrun by returnees. This has resulted in an inability to document and test the majority of those coming through.

If two of the three most popular official border crossings are overrun and ill equipped to test for COVID-19, one would surmise the portions of the border that are typically unmanned are also being used for migrants to return to their home country—or in an effort to escape the possibility of contracting the disease. Similar to how Vricon’s 3D geodata can be used to analyze the migration patterns of people, it also could be used to predict sites most likely to see an increase in COVID-19 cases. This information could then be used to determine the most beneficial locations to establish quarantine sites or testing facilities, both of which could contribute to the suppression of this global pandemic.

This is the third post in a series on terrain and migration. Read parts 1 and 2.